If you live in Texas, “Friday Night Lights” is actually a thing that people do each and every Friday night and it’s something the entire town, and school, looks forward to when the fall season comes around.
But there’s something else that the players look forward to outside of donning the helmets and hitting someone, that isn’t their own teammate, as hard as they possibly can. They look forward to the wins, they look forward to those wins piling up, and they look forward to the wins piling up to lead them into a playoff run that may, or may not, lead them to a state championship.
That something else is called, “recruiting.” Or as I refer to it as, “the recruiting mess.”
It doesn’t just take place in Texas, there are 49 other states that have this mess going on around them, but since I live and breathe in Texas, as well as do radio for one of those high schools in this great state, I can talk about the mess that goes on around here.
I won’t question recruiting coordinators nor will I question the coaches who watch film on players day in and day out. What I will question, however, is why they’re missing D1 talent that’s right in front of their noses? This past Saturday, I brought the TSI podcast up to Prosper, Texas and first year head coach Chris Ross stopped by and I asked him about one such player.
His direct quote? “He is a Division-I talent no question.”
Trust me when I tell you, Coach Ross has been in the coaching game long enough to know who deserves a Division-I offer and who doesn’t. The player he was referring to was Justin Northwest quarterback Jesse Drummer. The same Jesse Drummer, who’s listed at 6’3″ 230 pounds, tore up Prosper at AT&T Stadium early on in the season making every pocket, and on the run, throw you could possibly imagine and doing so with precision.
That was the moment I began to follow Drummer through his senior season and watch as much film on him as I could. I was fortunate enough to get to know his dad, Russell, and we began to talk about the process they were going through that is, well, “recruiting.”
As the season came to a close, and Northwest missed the playoffs by the slimmest of margins, I became aware of the fact that Jesse hadn’t received a single Division-I offer. The only interest, and offers, was coming from Division-II schools which is where he eventually landed after signing his letter of intent with Angelo State. I had even been contacted by a recruiter out of the SEC who asked me why there wasn’t a single Texas school on his offer list. It was a question that I couldn’t answer and over the next few months I tried to wrap my brain around that particular question and never could come up with an answer.
What was I missing? His throws were accurate. His arm is strong. Can sit in the pocket and go through his progressions, he can scramble outside of the pocket and make accurate throws on the run. Has the size to play the position. Has the leadership to learn any playbook put in front of him. What was I missing?
Drummer wasn’t alone. Prosper had a wide receiver who was faster, and stronger given his size, than most of the players on his team which included the offensive and defensive lineman. All you had to do was watch the film of wide receiver Zack English, and you quickly learned how talented this young man was.
English, like Drummer, finished his senior season without a single offer and ended up taking a preferred walk-on with the Arkansas Razorbacks. Why? One reason, his height.
But why does that really matter? SMU recruited current Dallas Cowboys’ wide receiver Cole Beasley who stands 5’9″ and was listed at 171 pounds coming out of high school along with a listed 4.42 40-time.
English stands 5’9″ and 170 pounds and was one of the fastest guys on the field with a 4.51 40-time, great hands, and the ability to make any defender miss or fall on their backside trying.
You can say that English was “too small” but then again that was said to New England Patriots’ star wide receiver, and Super Bowl standout, Julian Edelman who is listed at 5’10” and was actually recruited by Kent State as a dual-threat quarterback out of College of San Mateo.
Wasn’t Drew Brees told he was “too small” to play the quarterback position coming out Purdue and then turned out to be one of the top 10 NFL quarterbacks throughout his career?
I can understand the Power 5 conferences not wanting to recruit a 5’9″ wide receiver, but what’s the excuse of the mid-majors? Should we not be looking at the coaches or the recruiting coordinators and, instead, be looking at the star system that is put behind each recruit’s name or profile?
What if I told you, out of the top six leaders in sacks in college football last season four of them were two and three-star recruits out of high school?
Nate Orchard – Utah Utes (18.5 sacks – 2nd in the nation). Three-star recruit.
Philip Wright – Arizona Wildcats (14 sacks – 3rd in the nation) also led the nation in tackles (163). Two-star recruit.
Pete Robertson – Texas Tech Red Raiders (13 sacks – tied for 5th in the nation). Three-star recruit.
Shane Ray – Missouri Tigers (13 sacks – tied for 5th in the nation). Three-star recruit.
I don’t know what needs to change in the recruiting system and I don’t know how to change it. According to one mid-major recruiter I talked to, some of them are covering three to five states which, for one of them, included Texas, Oklahoma among three other states in the south. That’s not a small area to cover so of course there will be schools, and players, who get missed.
If you watch enough film, you can pick out the players who deserve to be seen by Division-I schools and who deserve offers to go along with it. Regardless of how their team played from one year to the next, there are those who will shine at the next level if they’re just given the opportunity.
You can’t give ever player that chance but there are those who are already proving it on the field and are still getting missed. Who’s at fault for that? Coaches? Recruiting coordinators? The college football program itself? Or are there just too many schools, and players, to look at and not enough time to do it in?
Whatever the case may be, I think it’s time for a change in the system and an avenue in which guys who cover the different high schools should be among those reached out to in order to find out which players are worth their time and which ones aren’t. Maybe that’s happening right now and maybe it’s not.
I’m not going to talk about a complete overhaul of the system, but just simply looking at the process and seeing what can be done differently in order for some of these recruits, who deserve to play Division-I football, not to be missed and left wondering what they could have done differently.
To me, the stars no longer matter where certain players are concerned because those considered “two-star” are outplaying those rated higher than them including quite a few “five-star” recruits. That leaves me, and others, wondering why the star system is even in place.
It’s an imperfect process and I get that. But a few small changes here and there could change recruiting as we know it.